Laughter on the 23rd Floor Cast Interview: Jimmy Blackmon
Where were you raised?
I was born and raised in Olympia.
What makes Laughter such a powerful piece of theater?
What is compelling about this play is that it’s about our ability to laugh in the face of tragedy and injustice, which I think is a critical survival instinct. As funny as the play is, there’s a melancholy beneath every punchline. It’s about people who tell jokes because sometimes laughter is the only rational reaction to an irrational world.
How did you get started in theater?
My first role was in Oklahoma when I was nine years old. I played a cowboy. I had a hat and a western style shirt I’d assume. That’s how I got started in theater.
Where did you go to college? What did you do while you were there?
Boston University. I majored in film (with a focus on television writing, as it happens) and did a lot of theater while I was there, acting in a variety of plays with the School of Theatre (Buried Child, A Doll’s House, The Skin of Our Teeth, etc.) and with student theater groups (Amadeus, Pterodactyls, The Birthday Party, etc.), did some directing (Speech & Debate) and acted in some short films. College was also where I discovered my love of improv, which has grown to be maybe my favorite kind of performance (shh don’t tell theater). For a little over two years, I performed regularly with Liquid Fun, a troupe at BU that does both short and long-form improv. Check them out if you find yourself on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
Do you supplement your income with any non-acting endeavors?
I’m currently a Committee Clerk for the Washington State Senate. If you like what you see on stage, tune into TVW to watch me hand out papers!
What’s it like working at Harlequin?
Everyone I’ve met here is kind, generous, respectful, crazy talented, professional, and excited by the work. What more could you ask for?
What advice would you have for an aspiring young actor?
I think I still qualify as both young and aspiring, so I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. That said, advice I try and often fail to follow: don’t take yourself or the work too seriously; you’re on stage playing dress-up. Play. Be kind to everyone. Learn your lines. Ask questions. Also, take an improv class.
What is one of the craziest theater experiences you’ve ever had?
In high school, I was acting in Is He Dead?, the Mark Twain/David Ives farce, in which my character spent the majority of the show dressed as a Victorian Era woman. During tech week of the show, I contracted what was either mono or swine flu (remember swine flu? 2009?) from the girl playing my love interest in the show. She knows who she is. By the day the show was set to open, I had a very high fever and spent most of the day in bed. But for some reason, I insisted on the performance not being canceled. I was stupid. I somehow made it through the whole show, sweating and aching, in a very tight corset, a hoop skirt, a heavy floor length dress, heels, and a wig, doing pratfalls and physical comedy and shouting throughout. I don’t remember a second of it.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence about coming to see Laughter?
“I’ll comp you” is what I would actually say in that situation, but that’s not a very good answer because there’s just no way that I can comp everyone reading this. Sorry. I’m really bad at pitching things I’m involved with to people. It’s a good play, go see it.